Ciattarelli, a former state assemblyman and the establishment-backed candidate, edged out three other Republican candidates — engineer Hirsh Singh, pastor Phil Rizzo and former Franklin Mayor Brian Levine — to win the party’s nomination.
While he was the front-runner in Tuesday’s GOP contest, Ciattarelli now faces a battle against Murphy, the favorite in this year’s race. The sitting governor, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, is well-positioned to break a New Jersey streak that began in 1989 of electing a governor from the party opposite of the sitting president, a year after Joe Biden won the state by 16 percentage points.
Ciattarelli was by far the best-funded candidate in the Republican race, raising $7 million while none of his rivals had reached the $1 million mark. With endorsements from all 21 county Republican organizations in the state, he also benefited from prime placement on the ballot.
Ciattarelli also labeled his leading rival Singh, a “fake MAGA candidate” in an ad, in which his campaign cast Singh as an opponent of law enforcement officers and highlighted a 2014 Facebook post in which Singh wrote in response to the killing of Eric Garner that “police terror must stop.”